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Did Ancient Egyptian Scribes Worship Baboons?

Archaeologists have discovered a tomb belonging to man described as a ‘true renowned scribe’ intricately decorated with carvings of the great apes.

They believe the baboons may have been the scribe’s muse, which is why they are given such prominence in his tomb.

The man, named Khonsu, is thought to have been a Royal Scribe to one of the Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt who ruled during the Ramesside period around 1200 BC.

The tomb was discovered among the ruins of the vast necropolis of Thebes in Luxor.

Professor Jiro Kondo, an Egyptologist at Waseda University in Japan, who led the excavation, said the discovery could shed new light on the role of scribes in Ancient Egypt.

His team discovered the tomb while exploring an area of the Thebes necropolis that housed the tomb of a high official called Userhat, who served Amenhotep III between 1386BC and 1349 BC.

Professor Kondo said they found a hole while clearing rubble from the forecourt of Userhat’s tomb and were stunned by what they saw inside.

‘The tomb is beautifully decorated and probably dates to the Ramesside period,’ he told Seeker.

‘On the north wall of the entrance doorway, we found a scene showing the solar boat of the god Ra-Atum being worshiped by four baboons showing the pose of adoration.’

Baboons are thought to have been revered in ancient Egypt and were associated with wisdom and precision.

Their presence in the tomb of a royal scribe suggests these were considered to be valuable attributes for people of his status.

Some experts believe they were the spiritual muses of scribes.

Professor Kondo and his colleagues believe Khonsu must have held them in high regard for them to be carved in such a prominent place in his tomb.

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Ra-Atum was a composite deity in ancient Egypt – the sun god and god of creation, who was often linked to the Pharaohs.

The tomb uncovered by Professor Kondo and his team was T-shaped with an east-west main axis.

The entrance faced the east and the main chamber stretched 15 feet (4.6m) long while the traverse hall stretched 18 feet (5.5 m) in a north to south direction.

On the north wall of the entrance area, carvings depicted the boat that carries Ra-Atum across the sky being worshiped by the four baboons.

Adjacent to these hieroglyphics inscribed vertically describe Khonsu as a ‘true renowned scribe.’

On the southern part of the eastern wall in the transverse hall, Khonsu and his wife are shown worshipping the ancient Egyptian gods Osiris and Isis.

Behind Khonsu and his wife is a depiction of two ram-headed deities, probably Khnum or Khnum-Re.

Osiris was the god of the afterlife and ruler of the dead while the goddess Isis was considered to be his wife.

On the northern part of the eastern wall in the transverse hall, the seated figures of the gods Osiris and Isis are depicted but the upper part of their bodies has been broken.

In the lower part of the same wall, a painting shows the fellows of the tomb owners. Most of the paintings on the western wall of the transverse hall are not visible.

A frieze pattern near the ceiling is in a typical khekher style of the Ramesside period.

Professor Kondo said the ceiling decorations are generally in better condition than the wall paintings.

He said the discovery suggests there may be more tombs – possibly of other scribes – waiting to be uncovered in the same area.

Professor Kondo said he and his team also plan to begin excavating the inner chamber of Khonsu’s tomb.

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Written by PH

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